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A reflection on how to get an A* and Top in China for IGCSE Biology

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One of our students Elkie Chan achieved the Top mark in China in the June 2017 IGCSE Biology examination.

He was presented with an Outstanding Cambridge Learner Award at a recent ceremony in Shanghai.

After the ceremony, Elkie took some time to reflect on this fantastic achievement and shared this reflection. I have shared it with the current grade 12 IBDP and grade 10 IGCSE Biology students.

The magic formula as ever is sustained hard work, regular review, focusing on your mistakes and the use of effective revision strategies.

It may not sound especially ground breaking but it works!

“Biology is a subject that requires conceptual understanding as well as some memorisation of knowledge. However, at IGCSE level, it is most important to understand the chain of reasoning for every answer, best by taking time to understand a concept instead of rushing it.

In class, we were taught in a well-structured way and it was fun as well as engaging. The activities enriched our experience. While the lessons were delivered engagingly, the resources taught key points without skipping any parts of the syllabus.

Furthermore, you should pay attention to the end of topic tests and try to improve every time. Thus, to succeed in the subject, you will need to allow yourself to understand the concept fully, and then follow your own method to practice the answer i.e flash card, writing, speaking out loud. If you repeat again and again across all chapters, you are most likely to do well.

Then, to achieve A*, you should review and try to memorise diagrams, labelling, as well as definitions. In order to do even better, you should not concede any points for MCQ or short-answer questions, although an element of luck is also involved!

I would like to thank my Biology teachers and my parents for always supporting me.”

 

Constructing a Mesocosm

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This week the grade 12 biologists constructed a closed hopefully sustainable ecosystem in a bottle. 

We discussed what is required for a sustainable ecosystem including the role of autotrophs, hetrotrophs, detritivores and saprotrophs.

The students made their model ecosystem known as a mesocosm from two water bottles, soil, gravel, a selection of aquatic and terrestrial plants, and invertebrates. 

We will follow the growth and the development of the Mesocosms over the next few months. It is hoped they will continue as sustainable ecosystems until the students finish their last IBDP Biology exam! 

Modelling Muscle Structure and Contraction

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The grade 11 students have been studying muscles and movement this week. They modelled the structure of the sacromere using pipe cleaners and drew diagrams to explain the molecular basis of the sliding filament theory. 

Futurelearn- free online course: Developing your Research Project. Great for Extended Essay students.

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Develop your research skills with this free course from Futurelearn and improve your Extended Essay.

 

 

This is a great free online course focused on developing research and writing skills relevant to the IBDP Extended Essay. I strongly recommend this short course for all grade 11 students as they develop their extended essay research project

I am currently taking the course and have found it very useful for my role as Extended Essay supervisor.

The Futurelearn website also has many other free online courses covering a large range of topics.

The web link is below.

httparn.com/courses/research-project s://www.futurele

IB Group 4 Project

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Grade 11 presenting their group 4 projects on the theme of Food Efficiency.

Using Getkahoot for regular review

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Team get kahoot for end of year review.

Karyotypes and Karyograms

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karyotype photo

 In grade 12 Biology we studied the structure of chromosomes and how they can be aligned into homologous pairs based on their size, banding pattern and position of the centromere (karyotyping).

Alligning the homologous pairs to form a karyogram then allows us to determine the sex of the individual the chromosomes came from and look for any chromosomal abnormalities like 3 copies of chromosome 21 (Trisomy 21) which is the cause of Downs Syndrome.

The students modeled the process of karyotyping by using an online simulation and a “technical” cut and stick activity.

Modeling Mitotic Cell Division

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mitosis pipecleaners
The grade 10 biology students are studying Cell division and inheritance. We have looked at the stages of mitosis that allows the DNA on chromosomes to be copied to form sister chromatids. We then described how the sister chromatids separate to form two new nuclei with identical DNA as the parent cell. The students modeled the movement of chromosomes/chromatids with pipe cleaners and annotated the mini white boards to describe the process. Photos of each stage were taken that formed part of the students notes and to be used to make stop motion animations.

 

Sheep Brain and Eye dissection

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brian eye

 

The G10 coordinated Science (Biology) class have been studying how the nervous system detects changes in the environment and coordinates an appropriate response. We broke down the steps required to catch a pen or football and identified the sensory, relay and effector neurons involved in this process. We then investigated reaction time but timing how long it would take the left and right hands to catch a ruler. Finally we looked at the central nervous system in more depth as we dissected a sheep’s brain and sense organs/receptors in more depth by dissecting a sheep’s eyeball. The students had a hands on experience as they passed the lens of the eye between them and could see for themselves as it changed shape in their hands.

Modeling the structure of skeletal muscle

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muscle models

 
The grade 12 Biology higher level students have just finished the movement sub topic in the animal physiology unit. To show the key features of the sliding filament theory of muscle contraction, the students modeled the structure of muscle sacromeres, including the position of actin and myosin filaments. These models were then used to show how nerve impulses and the release of calcium ions from the sarcoplasmic reticulum are used to coordinate muscle contraction.

 

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